Coming in at over 200 pages, today’s National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, 'Gene Drives on the Horizon’ is weighty but disappointing. It fails to properly address three of the most pressing issues raised by the controversial new technology of CRISPR-CAS9 gene drives. Dubbed, the ‘mutagenic chain reaction’ by its inventors, RNA-guided gene drives are a high-leverage synthetic biology technology invented only last year.
Synthetic Biology, according to its proponents, is moving at five times the pace of Moore’s law – basically doubling its capabilities and halving its costs every four months. Except that brash billionaire Craig Venter, often dubbed Bioscience’s Bad Boy, is no Gordon Moore. Venter has just announced that his team has produced Synthia 3.0 – the simplest human-made and self-replicating lifeform ever. Synthia 1.0 was announced – after years of delays – in 2010 and its second coming in this new form has been awaited ever since. Synthia 2.0 slipped by without notice – apparently not much to talk about – but this new version is being hailed by at least some synthetic biology scientists as a breakthrough.
The data on which is based the declaration of international emergency for the Zika virus are striking for the lack of evidence to motivate such a pompous statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the face of a mild illness, with very little evidence of connection with more serious ailments and without scientific proof.
As the synthetic biology industry and the extreme extraction industry move towards deeper collaboration, the climate and biosafety risks and threats from both will become more entangled.
ETC Group and Heinrich Böll Foundation are releasing new language versions of a ten minute animated introduction to Synthetic Biology. Titled “What is Synthetic Biology ? : Engineering life and livelihoods” this short explainer cartoon, drawn by award-winning Canadian animator Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre and produced by documentary filmmaker Jocelyne Clarke was previously only available in English but is now available in French, Spanish, Portuguese and German.
Las Vegas seems to be an apt place to launch a risky corporate gamble that could destroy the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers. Earlier this month, the international food conglomerate Cargill chose the city’s famous Strip to introduce what it hopes will be its next blockbuster product: EverSweet, a sweetener made of “the same sweet components in the stevia plant.”
And yet, despite Cargill’s heavy reliance on stevia in its promotional material, EverSweet does not contain a single leaf of the plant. Cargill’s new product is an example of synthetic biology, a form of genetic engineering that uses modified organisms to manufacture compounds that would never be produced naturally. What makes EverSweet taste sweet is not stevia; it is a compound produced by a bioengineered yeast.
Today, six corporations control global markets for industrial seeds/agrochemicals. They determine the priorities and future direction of agricultural research. What are implications of ag mega-mergers for food sovereignty and climate change? What can be done?
At a time when just three corporations – Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta – control 55% of the world’s commercial seeds, industrial farming interests in the Brazilian Congress have introduced a bill that aims to overturn the country’s 10-year old ban on Terminator technology – seeds that have been genetically modified to render sterile seeds. The technology is designed to secure corporate profits by eliminating the age-old right of farmers to save and re-plant harvested seeds.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA, Feb 9 2015 — As the climate crisis deepens and political and economic leaders remain in a state of paralysis, geoengineering is increasingly being advanced as a potentially “necessary” action; if recent attempts at opinionmaking are to be believed, it has gone from unthinkable to fundable. And yet, public opinion and much of the scientific community considers geoengineering technologies to be risky and more likely to aggravate than resolve the climate crisis.
Some governments are exploring geoengineering as a way to reduce or delay climate change. Geoengineering could technically take climate decisions away from all but the richest countries. Computer models show that stratospheric interventions to reduce sunlight and lower temperatures may benefit some temperate zones but negatively impact Africa with important social and agricultural consequences.
Some governments are exploring geoengineering as a way to reduce or delay climate change. Geoengineering could technically take climate decisions away from all but the richest countries. Computer models show that stratospheric interventions to reduce sunlight and lower temperatures may benefit some temperate zones, but negatively impact Asia’s monsoons with important social and agricultural consequences.
Some governments are exploring geoengineering as a way to reduce or delay climate change. Geoengineering could technically take climate decisions away from all but the richest countries. Computer models show that stratospheric interventions to reduce sunlight and lower temperatures may benefit some temperate zones but negatively impact Latin America with important social and agricultural consequences.
In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) today formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology (SynBio), a new extreme form of genetic engineering.
The unique scent of the patchouli plant is used in many fragrances and scented products. It is mostly grown in Malaysia, China, India and Singapore. One synthetic biology company is aiming to use synthetically modified microbes to produce a patchouli oil substitute, which could have negative effects on farmers.